Pool and Relax Area at Amangalla, Sri Lanka


Amangalla’s 28 rooms, including seven suites, are spread across two interconnected buildings that give this property a real sense of spaciousness. Interiors feature a heavy dose of colonial-era elegance, with polished teak and jack-wood floors, four-poster beds, planters chairs and an exquisitely tiled floor on the verandah out front. Doors of the so-called Great Hall are flung wide open, so the hotel feels like it is part of the Galle Fort scene.

And indeed, the two buildings that make up today’s hotel have a long history here. Part of the structures was built in 1684 by the Dutch (which explain the high-ceiling Great Hall, or Zaal, as it would have been called during those days) and turned into a hotel by the British in 1863. Aman took over in 2004, opening just before the tsunami hit Sri Lanka, devastating the surrounding coastline and a country already burdened by a lengthy civil war. Amazingly, Galle Fort was completely protected from the waves, and the wood floors of the Amangalla didn’t see a drop of water.

Today, the hotel reigns supreme in the luxury market with its spacious accommodations and such amenities as a sizeable pool (welcome in the soaring heat that this part of Sri Lanka can experience), a lovely tranquil spa, complete with a roster of Auyrvedic treatments, beautiful gardens and a buzzing bar famous for its locally inspired cocktails (try the arrack sour).

Rooms are spread across three floors, and all are very comfortably outfitted with large bathrooms. (Indagare Tip: If you don’t want to walk up and down stairs, ask for one on the ground floor, as there is no elevator here.) Some come with private patios or balconies, while others open directly into lovely gardens. Due to the layout of the historic buildings, none of the floor plans are the same and views vary (a glimpse of the sea can be spotted from some of the top-floor rooms).

Don’t miss morning yoga at the tranquil platform tucked into the gardens. Guests interested in Ayurvedic medicine should book a consultation with the on-site specialist.

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Swimming Pool at Amanwella, Tangalle, Sri Lanka


Built from the ground up as a seaside sister retreat to the Galle Fort’s Amangalla, the Amanwella overlooks a tranquil cove on the southern coast, near the town of Tangalle. Surrounded by coconut groves and built into a hillside, the setting is truly serene and very photogenic.

However, the remote location has had some drawbacks, namely that during the country’s civil war, which ended in 2009, the resort was quite cut off and updates were slow or impossible to accomplish. It’s showing its age a bit and renovations and additions, like a gym, are in the works. That said, for couples looking to relax and lounge by a beautiful pool for a couple of days, the Amanwella is in a good location en route from the Hill Country and Yala National Park to Galle.

The design is intentionally minimalist and contemporary and showcases lots of organic materials, including wood, stone and clay. The way the beiges and browns of the uncluttered, soaring spaces blend into the landscapes here is inspired by local architect legend Geoffrey Bawa who is famous for his naturalist-inspired designs. The most attractive spaces are the large restaurant and bar area, which overlook a large, 155-foot pool and the coconut-fringed cove below.

The 27 guest villas are located a five-minute stroll across a walkway and up a steep hill (the resort also offers tuktuk transfers), which makes getting between the rooms, pool and restaurant slightly inconvenient. The villas, each designed in signature Aman style with open floorplans, lots of lounging areas and spacious terraces, all look to the sea; the only difference between them is location. Behind the villas, another steep path snakes down to the Aman’s beach area, a protected patch of sand lined with cushy loungers and a beachside restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner.

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Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort

Set on 21 acres of a former coconut plantation, the oceanfront Anantara was one of the country’s first, resort-style international luxury hotels.

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Exterior View - Cape Weligama, Sri Lanka

Cape Weligama

The sumptuous villa clusters that make up Cape Weligama, opened in 2014, are built into a terraced side of a hill that overlooks the waves rolling into Weligama Bay. The location, a 20-minute drive from Galle, makes this resort a great choice for travelers who want to visit the southern coast’s most famous colonial town but prefer to be based at a full-service resort, with several pools, restaurant options and a luxurious sense of space.

After a quick check-in, guests are whisked away via golf cart to one of eight villa clusters, each containing anywhere from two to four villas, which are surrounded by lush, sizeable gardens. All rooms, ranging from one-bedroom lodgings to multi-bedroom Residences, are spacious and include massive bathrooms with a freestanding tub, walk-in shower and double vanities. While the design is a mix of Thailand, Bali and Colonial England (so not super destination specific), the rooms are extremely comfortable and accessible: the mini bar is stocked with waters, sodas and the local beer (all included in the rate); there’s a coffee maker and a plate of cookies; the beds are oversized Kings; and the bath amenities include everything from after-sun to bug spray.

Bed- and bathrooms open up—via sliding door panels—to the shady patio, with day beds, couches and a coffee table laden with books about the region. At all villas, views of the Indian Ocean peak through the foliage, so some villas have more direct vistas than other (ask Indagare’s Bookings Team for help deciding which villa to book).

Best for uninterrupted views is the infinity Moon Pool (the property’s adults-only swimming pool), which gives guests a birds-eye view of the daredevil surfers tempting Weligama Bay’s waves. A “family pool” is located at the other side of the complex surrounded by the family villas that are grouped together in slightly closer quarters. There is a small beach, reachable via a steep climb down from the hotel’s lofty location, but the ocean here can be rough and there is no lifeguard and only minimal facilities, so most guests settle on one of the double-sized loungers by the pool instead.

Weligama has several dining options, with menus including Western, Indian and local options, and while the occasional buffet hails from a bygone hotel era, it’s all very good food, prepared with passion and gusto by the team of Sri Lankan chefs. (Weligama and Tea Trails both belong to the Relais & Châteaux portfolio.)

And here is where Weligama truly excels: at resorts and hotels throughout the country, the staff could not be nicer. But Weligama is owned by a local family and one that is deeply respected: the Fernando family of the Dilmah tea emporium, founded and developed by Merril J. Fernando. One of the first six Sri Lankans granted permission by the British to become a master tea taster, Fernando remains deeply committed to local causes, both social and environmental. Weligama and sister property Tea Trails is the brainchild of his son, Malik, and at Weligama, you can sense a particular pride in the employees who love sharing the property with guests.

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Chena Huts

This set of domed, thatch-roof bungalows offers a high-end African-style safari experience on Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches. Read Indagare's Review.
Courtyard at Fort Bazaar, Sri Lanka

Fort Bazaar

Banish all thoughts of dark-wood interiors: the chic Fort Bazaar, which opened in 2015, offers a new take on colonial-era style. The hotel is set in a two-story building (a restored home from the 1800s) that centers around a serene courtyard full of beautiful flowers, frangipani and mango trees. The courtyard’s tiled floors, seating nooks with ikat-print pillows and brass lanterns contain hints of Morocco and India, while clean-lined armchairs and light-wood furniture throw some mid-century Scandinavian into the mix.

Room interiors, meanwhile, playfully reinvent British Colonial staples. Window shutters are painted an elegant grey-green, the floors are polished stone, and the high ceilings are white-washed. The spaces are uncluttered: one bed (a very comfortable four-post king), one desk, one armchair and no art or unnecessary adornment. Bathrooms come with rain showers and are stocked with locally made products. Thanks to well-functioning air conditioning, these minimalist enclaves make for a welcome respite from the midday heat when many guests return for a nap after morning touring.

The charming on-site restaurant Church Street Social serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while the menu is more slanted to Western-Asian fusion, there are also always local choices, including egg hoppers (a savory Sri Lankan pancake topped with an egg) for breakfast and a wonderful selection of rice and curries for dinner.

As with any newcomer, there are growing pains: the WiFi and hot water were spotty during an April 2016 visit and while the staff is lovely, the pace with which requests are delivered is leisurely. A pool and small spa are in the works and should be completed by the Fall 2016; meanwhile, guests are shuttled to the pool at a nearby hotel.

Exterior View -  Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka

Heritance Kandalama

The setting of the Heritance Kandalama is striking: carved into a rock-face perched high above Kandalama Lake, the hotel folds seamlessly into its natural setting, which is a feat of architectural master-minding, considering it is seven stories tall and one kilometer (0.6 miles) long. Its multiple terraces as well as many of the guest rooms also have spot-on views of Sigiriya Rock in the distance, and its lush, grown-in setting draws an army of monkeys to the delight of any children staying there. Famed architect Bawa conceived the hotel to resemble a bird in flight from above, so two slender wings fan out from the central, seven-story hub, which houses several restaurants, bars and pool areas, as well as a wonderful Six Senses spa that sits at the very top of the building with expansive views.

If Kandalama were a small-to-mid-sized hotel, it would be pure heaven. However, with 152 rooms, three restaurants (including a massive buffet), three pools and several lounges and bars, it is the preferred choice for larger groups traveling together, so the overall experience feels a bit packaged. The guest rooms are comfortable enough, with king-size beds, small balconies and local snacks (paprika-spiced cashews). But bathrooms could use an update and due to the lengthy layout with rooms spread across five floors and with eight room categories, figuring out what room to request can be tricky. Some categories have also been renovated more recently.

The property's commitment to sustainability, conservation and community-building is remarkable: it has set aside some 98 acres as undeveloped forest (allowing for exquisite bird life); it has its own vegetables and herb gardens; and some 60 percent of the lovely staff are from local villages. In some ways, it is nice that this iconic Sri Lankan property in this spectacular location is accessible to a larger audience—everyone is rapt when the sun sets across the lake, painting the sky pink and purple—but after coming from such boutique gems as Kandy House or Tea Trails, the size of Heritance Kandalama can be a little jarring.

Exterior View -  Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sri Lanka

Jetwing Vil Uyana

Sri Lankan hotel group Jetwing generally manages large-size, mid-market properties, making Jetwing Vil Uyana an unexpected, lovely surprise. Folded into the luscious jungle of Sigiriya Park, home of the fabled rock fortress, Vil Uyana is an ambitious eco project, which opened in 2006 around a man-made wetland. The hotel was created on abandoned agricultural land, in the center of this culturally rich region of Sri Lanka whose ancient kings invented water irrigation systems in use to this day.

Vil Uyana’s key architect drew inspiration from these historic reservoir-building traditions while conceiving of this 27-acre property. The result is an eco resort unlike any other in Sri Lanka, with thirty-six simple but luxurious thatch-roof villas that are folded into a nature reserve complete with marsh- and wetlands, as well as a beautifully serene lake.

Guests are taken to their villas, all located on stilted walkways for optimal views, via an electric golf cart (most staff members cruise around the property on bicycles). Vil Uyana’s green initiatives are considerable and include conserving and re-using 90% of the property’s water, implementing energy-efficient lighting throughout and having key cards turn off not only the room lights but also the air conditioning. (This is, surprisingly, unproblematic: during a recent visit in grueling 90-plus degree heat, rooms cooled down quickly upon arrival thanks to the high-rafted ceilings of the thatched-roof structures.)

The layouts of the spacious villas are different depending on room category —they are named for their natural surroundings: forest, water, paddy, marsh, garden—but most are split-level extravaganzas featuring organic materials, like wood, woven bamboo, raffia and stone. The open-plan layout is spacious and comfortable, with and separate day beds and thoughtful in-room amenities, including tea and coffee makers and a minibar stocked with a selection of wine, beer and juices.

As comfortable as the villas are, most guests will spend their Vil Uyana time outside, especially at the accommodations that have private plunge pools. There’s nothing better than ending a hot day of sightseeing in some cool water, glass of white wine or Lion beer in hand, watching the sun turn the surrounding jungle a thousand shades of green and keeping an eye out for the resident wildlife. There are more than 100 bird species here, including peacocks and the techno-colored Kingfischer, as well as many monkeys and a resident crocodile in the lake (sightings are rare of this shy creature). At Vil Uyan, you often catch other guests stopping in their track to stare into the bushes, then point with excitement if they have spotted something; this is a place that allows everyone to experience the glorious natural setting with childlike wonder.

Many guests leave to explore the nearby Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya Rock or to take the half-day trip to Polonnaruwa, But for those who relax on property, there’s an over-water spa and small gym, and the restaurant is a soaring space on the first floor of the main hub that also houses a boutique, the reception and a fabulous library, a perfect spot for whiling the afternoon away with a book. At the end of a day of sightseeing, most gather on the terrace overlooking the small infinity pool and watch as the lake absorbs the deepening colors of the setting sun.

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Cluster Chalets and Private pool at Jungle Beach Resort, Sri Lanka

Jungle Beach Resort

The same Indian Ocean you overlook from Sri Lanka’s southern coast fronts Jungle Beach, but it seems more expansive, impressive and beautiful here. Perhaps that is because you literally cannot see another building or structure for miles to the right and left of this laid-back, eco-style resort.

Forty-eight freestanding bungalows are folded into fifteen acres of jungle that has been kept purposefully wild and lush (only two big trees were cut down when the property was built in 2012). Arriving guests walk up a walkway made of wooden planks into the al fresco reception area that resembles a tree house. None of the common spaces, including a bar, restaurant and several sitting areas are enclosed (and therefore nothing is air-conditioned), so indoor and outdoor spaces blend seamlessly together. It all feels a bit like the setting for Swiss Family Robinson or Castaway, albeit with some really nice accommodations.

The bungalows are all spacious, with high ceilings, large bathrooms and outdoor showers. Floors are cool stone, there are some touches of colors (in throws and pillows) but overall, interiors are understated, allowing the greens of the outside to shine. All have outdoor sitting areas as well (though some are so surrounded by vines, trees and vegetation that they are a bit dark). Even the so-called Beach bungalows are not directly on the sand but a bit set back in vegetation (this Indian Ocean gets wild during monsoon season). But the jungle setting is quite romantic and you never have to walk far to get to the water. The three top bungalows are built in a cluster and share a sizeable private pool. Contact Indagare to know which room to book.

Days at Jungle Beach have the languorous rhythm of a vacation in a place where you can really unplug (there’s WiFi but the speed varies around the property). After breakfast, you decide whether to settle by the medium-sized pool, tucked in the jungle and by a pond or claim one of the loungers on the beach (most opt for the latter). The rest of the day is spent in a cycle of swimming, reading, napping, eating and repeating the whole thing again.

Nothing at Jungle Beach is overly fancy: the loungers on the beach are a bit close together and have only small side tables for dining. No one gets dressed up for dinner here, even though romantic special dinners can be organized right at the beach, and the team is laid-back, a little dreamy and very friendly (just don’t expect wishes to be fulfilled at the speed of light).

The crowd is made up primarily of couples looking for pure relaxation at the end of an activities-heavy Sri Lanka itinerary. Besides some boogie boards and a local snorkeling expedition, there’s zero entertainment here, so there’s no pressure that you’re “missing something” by not venturing beyond the hotel’s boundaries. The menu at the restaurant casts a wide net of local and international eats—which is good news considering that no one leaves the property for dinner (there’s simply no place to go).

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Kandy House

Like a hidden gem, Kandy House lies, past a curlicue iron gate that seems to appear out of nowhere along a dusty road lined with local shops. The restored manor home is surrounded by tropical gardens that look—and smell—exquisite, and the main entrance is framed by two lush mango trees that are lit up by strings of Christmas lights at night.

The traditional building with its red-brick roof is centered around a small courtyard with rooms tucked away on the ground and first floors. There are just nine, each named after a Sri Lankan butterfly, and each is different in layout, size and décor. Most private are the Ultra Rooms with private verandas; one Deluxe Room on the first floor has a beautiful garden view. Interiors are stylish, with a colonial-chic assortment of antiques, art and colorful woven textiles. The ground-floor rooms can be a bit dark, as the building is surrounded by a sizeable veranda, but considering the tropical area’s heat, it’s best not to have sun-drenched rooms. Most come with separate bathtubs and showers, and four of the nine rooms have personal butler service.

It took the current owners 25 years to renovate the property (the former home of an 18th century Kandy minister), and beautiful original details, including polished Jakwood floors, have been preserved. It retains the spirit of a home—albeit a very proper one—with cozy sitting areas, a lovely garden and a sizeable pool area. Guests, too, are immediately comfortable: shortly after arrival, most have already abandoned their shoes, as the feeling of walking around barefoot, from stone to wood to lawn, is undeniably lovely here.

One thing to know about Kandy House is that due to its intimate size a successful stay depends greatly on your fellow guests. If you’re lucky and end up with like-minded travelers, then it’s a lot fun to meet and exchange Sri Lanka travel stories; if you have even one disruptive or loud couple, it can sway the balance.

**Indagare Tip:**Due to Kandy House’s location, guests will have dinners here, so it’s worth making a half-board reservation.

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Aerial View : Owl & Pussycat Hotel, Sri Lanka

Owl & Pussycat Hotel

The Owl and the Pussycat (OTP for short) is named after a whimsical nonsense poem by British author Edward Lear and offers a deeply personal interpretation of Sri Lankan seaside living. Four multi-story buildings encircle a courtyard in eye-popping colors—pink, blue, yellow—and balconies with glass railings overlook the multi-hued Indian Sea. At the center of the courtyard, a lime-green-tiled pool sparkles in the sunlight, and beyond, a pergola-shaded verandah with a long table calls to mind languorous lunches in the South of France or Italy. The whole thing is a stylish and unapologetically colorful extravaganza—a theme that continues inside the rooms.

All 18 of the accommodations are sizeable suites, half of which come with fully stocked kitchenettes. Owner Reita Gadkari, a fashionable jetsetter originally from India who now divides her time between London and Umbria, created each room as its own stylish little universe. There are cool floors made with painted tiles; brightly colored accent walls; beautifully woven textiles and fabrics (the reversible quilts on the beds especially will make you long for an on-site boutique); a boho-chic mix of furniture and art sourced mainly from local galleries. Travellers who enjoy the aesthetic of whimsical hotels like London’s Firmdale collection will feel right at home here.

If the whole property doesn’t scream “Sri Lanka” at first sight, this is intentional. Gadkari and architect Uday Dhar are playing with their own, deeply personal interpretation of what contemporary style looks like in a place that remains a bit tongue tied when it comes to finding its own, present-day design language. “I have such an aversion to colonial interiors,” says Gadkari, who is already working on hotel number two down the coast and who has big expansion plans for OTP. “I couldn’t even bring myself to include a single ceiling fan here. We have to move beyond this dated, dark-wood aesthetic.” That said, once you begin traveling through the country, you do see the bold colors of OTP everywhere along the road, and even modest huts are painted in vivid hues. So this property certainly references and salutes the vibrant destination that surrounds it.

Like some of the design touches, the OTP team hails from all over the world, including a resort manager and chef from India and a charming mixologist / chef from Italy. The restaurant will offer lots of local options (Gadkari is a passionate foodie), and guests can go to the local market with the chef to forage for ingredients. Western dishes are also available, including homemade pasta from the on-site Roman chef. The intimate size of the property assures that special requests can be accommodated and that guests mingle over meals and by the small pool.

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Tea Trails Bungalows

Arriving at one of the incredible Tea Trail bungalows is part of the adventure: your driver takes you through impossibly narrow roads, winding higher and higher through greener and greener tea crops, passing local pickers dressed in colorful saris. The entire time you are bouncing around on the back seat, you can’t help but wonder at the British, on horseback and in carriages, who pegged this wild tropical jungle, with its steep, unforgiving terrain, as the place for starting a tea planation.

But select it they did, in the 1840s, starting what remains as one of Sri Lanka’s biggest industries. And with the plantations came estate managers (and their wives and entourage), so planters’ bungalows sprung up around Hill Country. The five restored ones that belong to Tea Trails hail from this colonial era, having been meticulously restored and updated by the owners, the Fernando family of the Sri Lankan Dilmah tea empire (Cape Weligama is the sister property).

Each of the stylish boutique villas (“bungalow” is an understatement) has between four and six bedrooms, as well as sumptuous sitting and dining rooms, a games room (billiards, of course) and beautifully planted gardens. The vibe is that of a home stay and keys to rooms are only procured upon request. Though belonging to the same hotel group, the bungalows are located sizeable distances apart (30-45 minutes by car), so guests will stay put at one of them for the entirety of their stay. Choosing which one is not easy, as all have unique characteristics and will appeal to different types of travelers (contact Indagare’s Bookings Team for help selecting the one that’s right for you).

Norwood is exquisite from the moment guests drive past two enormous stands of bamboo that shelter the elegant driveway. High on top of a hillside, this bungalow has extraordinary 360-degree views of the eastern end of the Bogawantalawa Valley and feels the most open. A large swimming pool and sun deck makes a stay here particularly relaxing, and the larger grounds make it the best fit for families traveling with younger children. Over in another valley, Tientsin is located at an elevation of 4,600 feet and is a garden lover’s dream, with expansive green lawns and colorful flower beds. Lunch and tea here are served on a covered porch with a view towards the mountains.

Castlereagh, the original Tea Trails bungalow that opened in 2005, has the most colonial vibe, with pretty gardens and a slightly smaller sitting and dining room. At a lower altitude, it overlooks Castleragh Reservoir, which is also where seaplanes land for visitors not wishing to make the adventurous drive here. Just up the road from Castleragh lies Dunkled, the newest Tea Trails addition that opened in early 2016. The outside terrace and patio here has incredible views, and a single cottage is a fabulous choice for travelers requiring more space. Interiors are stylish and brand-new, with beautiful printed fabrics and polished floors, the large infinity pool and Jacuzzi have sweeping reservoir views. (With four rooms, the smallest of the villas, Somerville, is currently closed for renovations.)

Much like at a safari or wilderness lodge, days at Tea Trails are arranged around meals. After breakfast, the chef will run lunch and dinner plans by you, and there are juices and snacks available throughout the day. Morning “bed tea” kicks off your day (very Downton Abbey) and High Tea, complete with clotted cream and scones highlights the afternoon. To offset all the eating (which is excellent and can be fully customized to preference), many guests choose to hike or bike in the area, though bikers need to be hearty: the terrain here is steep. Each bungalow has a couple of well-marked shorter hikes in its vicinity and those wishing for a more challenging trek can hike from one bungalow to another for lunch. Another must is the Tea Experience, where guests learn about the local tea production from the master blenders and makers working here.

It’s good to know ahead of time that are some downsides to staying at such an intimate and historic property. Doors and walls are not as sound-proof as one would like, which is not ideal when you have a mix of guests with varying degrees of jetlag from around the world (though in most cases, this villa hotel draws a rather subdued, older clientele). Even though each bungalow is generously sized, when it rains, guests retreat to the same three or four common areas, so if someone wants to watch a soccer game on TV, it’s difficult to escape. And just like at any other lodge in the world, pre-dinner cocktails entail some mingling.

That said, for most travelers, Tea Trails will be a must-do on their itinerary—it’s simply one of the most authentic and memorable hotel stays the country. Much like at Cape Weligama, what elevates it is the incredible team of butlers who not only speak excellent English but who look after their guests with a lot of care, humor and thought. Many have been with Tea Trails for years (always a good sign) and are eager to have guests appreciate the special beauty of this region.

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Bedroom at The Wallawwa, Sri Lanka

The Wallawwa

Many Sri Lanka itineraries begin in the Cultural Triangle, but committing to a five-to-six-hour car journey directly after a multi-hour international flight can make even the most seasoned traveler balk. Luckily, there’s the lovely Wallawwa (sister property is Galle’s Fort Bazaar hotel) to solve this dilemma. Located a 20-minute drive from the airport, it makes a perfect, relaxing enclave to spend an afternoon, evening and night, before venturing onward. (It’s an equally delightful place to unpack, repack and get ready for the long journey home at the end of a packed itinerary.)

Housed inside a former colonial manor house (Wallawwa means “homestead” in Singhalese), the property has spacious sitting rooms and an elegant, deeply stylish ambience, which continues in the seventeen generously sized guest rooms. Complete with massive bathrooms, stone floors, large four-poster beds and bright peach- and orange-colored fabrics, interiors are very comfortable and offer plenty of space. The best ones are the Garden Suites, which look into lush greenery.

The best part about staying at the Wallawwa, however, are the peaceful, beautiful gardens that surround the hotel, lush with bamboo, palms and hibiscus bushes. There's a decently sized pool area, lawn games like croquet and badminton and complimentary tea. It's worth taking a short amble to the lovely fruit and vegetable garden, which supplies the restaurant here. No one leaves for meals, and in the evening, it's fun to mingle with fellow guests and compare Sri Lanka itineraries over rice and curries, as well as a lengthy menu of more Western-inspired dishes.

**Indagare Tip:**Anyone coming straight off a plane should book a treatment at the intimate spa.

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Suites Exterior at Tri, Sri Lanka


In the beginning, Tri’s owner Rob Drummond fell in love with a tree. But not just any tree: a majestic Banyan tree with a massive tangle of roots that stands perched on a hilltop overlooking the Kogalla lagoon, at 2,500 acres, Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake. Today, this Banyan is the centerpiece of Drummond's Tri resort, located on the country’s southern coast, a 30-miute drive from Galle.

Arriving at Tri is part of the experience: a rough road snakes through unpaved jungle paths, past local villages until it leads to the Tri gates, where guests then climb a narrow staircase that opens onto a magnificent lake view. The eye is immediately drawn to a stunning infinity pool that suspends out from a viewing platform. The six-acre property spirals around and away from a four-story watertower, and it holds just 18 accommodations, including several villas. Everything was conceived to blend entirely into the lush natural habitat, and so the structures were built using local woods and stone, and roofs are planted.

The eco-chic design continues on the interiors as well, which are stylish and minimalist using an abundance of organic materials, including the local Mara and reclaimed Jak woods. Floors are supremely smooth (but quite slippery) stone, and linens and curtains are made from flowy light fabrics. Windows are floor-to-ceiling sliding panels and they should be, with the glorious views they offer: a multitude of different shades of green gives way to the serene lake whose gently rippling surface is positively hypnotic.

Most guests arrive a Tri with a list of activities—after all, the property is just a 30-minute drive to Galle Fort and in easy distance to Mirissa Beach, Hugodan Tea Plantation and several rock temples. However, the remoteness of the location and the special setting inspire staying put. Four times a week, yoga classes are offered and with some advance notice, a masseuse can be brought in (this is more difficult to arrange during the high season). The hotel also offers cruises around the lake, which is particularly popular in the early morning for optimal bird watching.

Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate as there is no place to easily go off-property (the jungle road is best not temped at night). To keep things interesting, the chef (who has a thing for pretty locales, having previously worked at North Island, Song Saa and Nihiwatu) whips up six-course dinners every evening. But thanks to the limited number of guests, special requests, including fewer courses, can be accommodated. Keeping with the eco-friendly concept, ingredients are sourced locally where possible, and some of it is grown on Tri’s premises.

And the premises are really the point here: guests who have a love for nature and an interest in Sri Lankan flora and fauna will be happiest here. At night, the lights around the property are kept to a minimum, and a cacophony of sounds—frogs, crickets, nocturnal birds—explode all around. Note: all common spaces at Tri are open to the outside, so dinner in an air-conditioned room is not an option. While the rooms are air conditioned, the high ceilings make them comfortably cool but not ice cold. Sliding doors mean that some little critters do make it into the rooms; guests who find the idea of coming across the sporadic bug off-putting, should book elsewhere.

It’s easy to forgive Tri its small shortcomings or the occasional service hiccup, as the hotel is admirably pushing an eco concept in a country where a real environmental conscience is still developing. Sitting on your balcony in the late afternoon watching the light change the colors of the vegetation; listening to the birds calling to one another during shivasina in the open-air yoga shala; walking to your room after dinner with a night soundtrack of frogs and insects—these are experiences that make you feel truly in touch with nature in a deeply primordial sense and that give Tri an incredible sense of place.

Pool at Ulagalla Resort, Sri Lanka

Ulagalla Resort

No matter how exciting the monuments in the area, Ulagalla is the type of property you can’t wait to return to after some sight-seeing. Centered around a historic mansion dating from 1916 that faces a beautiful large pool area, the property spans some 58 acres of gorgeous scenery, including rice paddies, small ponds and romantic, overgrown jungle paths. Strolling or biking around, guests can see incredible bird life, including many resident peacocks, as well as iguana, monkeys and water buffalo in the distance (the property is surrounded by local farms and massive man-made lakes).

The twenty so-called guest chalets are folded into this verdant scenery on stilts for optimal views. They are grouped in pairs, so you don’t feel completely deserted in the middle of the jungle, but some clusters are far from the main hub, so each comes with a set of bicycles for guests to get around (the lovely staff is also happy to arrange golf cart pick-ups). All chalets have the same generous layout with a large sitting room with an L-shaped couch, dining table, flat-screen television and a counter with a tea and coffee maker. Bedrooms are equally spacious, with a king-size, four-post bed, and bathrooms boast double vanities and rain showers (but no bathtubs).

All chalets, except for the two closest to the pool area, also have sizeable plunge pools and al fresco decks with loungers. Thanks to the fact that the chalets are on stilts, they almost have the sense of a tree house—the floor-to-ceiling windows look out into lush green foliage teeming with birdlife. Two of the most desirable houses also have more sweeping views of the rice paddies (contact Indagare’s Bookings Team to learn which number to book).

It says a lot about the main hub, with its large pool, bar/lounge and restaurant, that guests can tear themselves away from their private jungle extravaganzas. But especially in the early evening, you can watch most everyone arrive on their bikes and settle into the comfortable wicker chairs on the terrace. The mansion, which was built in 1916, has an open floor plan (you won’t find a single window), beautiful old wood beams and cool tile floors. The first-story restaurant, overlooking the pool, serves a good mix of local Sri Lankan food, as well as international choices, featuring produce from the Ulagalla’s own organic vegetable garden (cooking classes are also available here).

The witching hours at this special property, however, just after sunrise and right before sunset, are when the incredible panoramas here are at their very best. Biking around, with an eye peeled for peacocks and monkeys, the light changing by the minute, you feel the tug of something ancient in these landscapes. Though Ulagalla is very luxurious, it’s the simple pleasures in these moments that elevate it: the warm breeze, the soothing jungle colors, the sense of excitement that a new discovery may just be right around the next corner.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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